Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The New Bootleggers

You Can’t Cash My Checks

It’s so hard to stay honest in a world that’s headed to hell
You can't make a good living these days cause the fruit just won't sell

So if you go out my back door
Just over the hill
You'll see all these plants
That's been paying my bills

But you can't cash my checks
And you can't feel this hunger
You can push me into cold water
But you can't hold me under
Jamey Johnson, singer song writer

From an article in Mother Jones magazine: The New Dealers we learn how more people than we realize are making ends meet. I personally know two such individuals who grow and sell, neither can get work for various reasons. These are the new bootleggers who are not getting rich, but are just making ends meet.

In a forthcoming post you'll see that our elected officials are only interested in their wealth, not your well being nor the country's so long as it conflicts with their money grab.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Republican and Democrat Brains

"We have long had death and taxes as the two standards of inevitability. But there are those who believe that death is the preferable of the two. "At least," as one man said, "there's one advantage about death; it doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."
Erwin N. Griswold (1904–1994), appellate attorney

Draw your own conclusions. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Politicians, Constituents, and the F-Bomb

“When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency”
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), poet, critic, and writer

The political media is portraying an Iowa grocery store shopper's rude comment, "you're a fucking asshole, as evidence that Newt Gingrich is falling rapidly in the polls. To me it’s just further proof of society’s lack of manners and decorum, which sadly is not news.

Gingrich is doing what any candidate for public office needs to do, which is meet and greet the people who will have an opportunity to cast their vote for or against. There is no need and indeed no excuse for such behavior.

Disgracefully politicians behave similarly: former Vice President Dick Cheney shamefully told a colleague from across the aisle to “Go fuck yourself,” in June of 2004 during a debate regarding Halliburton’s role in the reconstruction of Iraq. His boss President George W. Bush gave the middle finger salute before filming started, which was recorded.

Democrats have been just as bad. Elected leaders need to set examples for civility and for ethical behavior, not elevate contemptible and despicable behavior.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Keith Richards

"Some of it, you really want to unlearn."

Keith Richards, guitarist, songwriter for The Rolling Stones

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Loud TV Commercials -- Are You Deaf Yet?

“Speech is for the convenience of those who are hard of hearing; but there are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) essayist, poet, philosopher


Sorry, I didn't mean to yell, I was trying to write about the commercials, but I couldn't hear myself think.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the FCC said cable and satellite TV companies as well as local broadcasters will be required to make sure the volume on commercials is kept in check. The rules go into effect in December 2012.

Sadly we still have to wait another year, but then one can rest their eyes and not end up like a scared cat clinging to the ceiling once the commercials start screaming at you.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Drink Up A Song List to Celebrate Prohibition's End

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
W. C. Fields, (1880 – 1946), actor

I almost missed this. Monday marked the 78th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment that officially ended Prohibition in the United States. On December 5, 1933, the federal government brought to a close a 13-year era of a failed prohibition of alcohol.

I got this idea from Mother Jones. Here is a list of drinking songs to celebrate or morn. Let’s set the scene in the wee hours of the morning with Mr. Sinatra and we’ll end on a bawdy tune with another Frank, Mr. Zappa):

  1. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road), Count & The Orchestra Basie/Frank Sinatra, Sinatra at the Sands
  2. Angel Eyes, Count & The Orchestra Basie/Frank Sinatra, Sinatra at the Sands
  3. Drinking Again, Frank Sinatra, Nothing But The Best
  4. Medley: Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes/I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine Dean Martin, Rat Pack Live At The Sands
  5. Hey Brother, Pour The Wine, Dean Martin, The Capitol Years
  6. Have Another Drink, The Kinks, Kinks Present A Soap Opera
  7. Alcohol, The Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies
  8. My Alcoholic Friends, The Dresden Dolls, Yes, Virginia...
  9. Alcohol, Barenaked Ladies, Stunt
  10. The Drinking Song, Loudon Wainwright III, Recovery
  11. The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me), Tom Waits Small Change
  12. The Fourth Night of My Drinking, Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do
  13. Daddy Needs a Drink, Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creations Dark
  14. I Think I'll Just Stay Here And Drink, Merle Haggard: The Best of Merle Haggard
  15. Rudy wants to buy Yez a drink, Frank Zappa, Chunga's revenge
  16. Moonshine Whiskey, Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey
  17. Whiskey Can Can, Beck, One Foot In the Grave
  18. Rye Whiskey, Punch Brothers, T Bone Burnett Presents: The Speaking Clock Revue - Live from The Beacon Theatre
  19. Women Without Whiskey, Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera
  20. Warm Beer and Cold Women, Tom Waits, Nighthawks at the Diner
  21. Down Among the Wines and Spirits, Elvis Costello, Secret, Profane and Sugarcane
  22. Elderberry Wine, Elton John, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
  23. Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren), The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street
  24. Titties & Beer, Frank Zappa, Zappa In New York

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lt. Pike Deserves Infamous Notoriety

"It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power."
John Adams, 1788

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson

The callous Lt. Pike who so willingly sprayed peaceful students at UC Davis deserves all the infamous notoriety. He was put on PAID administrative leave, which is akin to vacation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Personal Appreciation of Paul Simon

God makes his plan

The information’s unavailable

To the mortal man

We’re working our jobs

Collect our pay

Believe we’re gliding down the highway

When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

“Slip Slidin’ Away” written by Paul Simon, from the album “Still Cray After All These Years”

I have been familiar with Paul Simon’s music for a number of years maybe beginning in the late ‘60s and certainly continually since the mid-‘70s, when I am guessing his fame was at its pinnacle after having recently separated from his childhood friend and musical partner Art Garfunkel. I attended his concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in ’76-’77. I was too musically immature to truly appreciate him and he seemed too soft rock/pop for my tastes at that time. I purchased most of his albums over the years, but rarely kept them on regular rotation.

My music listening has increased tremendously in the last few years. Most likely Apple and its iPod are responsible for my renewed focus on music. Now I focus much more on the lyrics. While I still like a good rock song my aging tastes lean toward acoustic, thoughtful, and insightful. Simon’s song writing fits the bill nicely.

Simon’s latest CD and tour titled “So Beautiful or So What” intrigued me enough to experience both. I purchased two tickets and invited my cousin from Oregon to accompany me to the April concert. The show was very good until the encore, and then it was amazing. Simon walked out by himself with an acoustic guitar and started into “The Sound of Silence.” I was stunned by the beauty and poetic nature of the song that I overlooked until now:

Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

'Neath the halo of a street lamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools", said I, "You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you"

But my words, like silent raindrops fell

And echoed

In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls"

And whispered in the sound of silence

Prior to that concert the only version I had heard was the version with Garfunkel, it was nice just not poignant to me. The version on his latest collection of songs “Paul Simon Songwriter” is the song I heard him sing, twice and both were spellbinding. There is also a version on his album “Paul Simon Songbook” that sounds stark and angry, which also works.

While I didn’t initially appreciate the song many others have for decades. According to Wikipedia: "The Sound of Silence" is the song that propelled Simon & Garfunkel to popularity. It was written in February 1964 by Paul Simon in the aftermath of the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. While the song was a hit and is the 18th most recorded song with five million plus performances, according BMI, it still feels underrated and taken for granted.

Having now seen Simon twice in concert this year, once in April and again in October because I wanted my Love to experience the musical beauty of that song and the entire concert. The second time around I was able to better appreciate the songs and the band. The autumn show was looser and tighter. The band’s stage presence seemed more relaxed, despite guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Stewart suffering a rather significant bike riding accident earlier that day.

I am making up for all the unappreciated Simon years by listening frequently to my Paul Simon playlist. A number of his songs have lyrics that are poignant and poetic. He captures a feeling that is universal in a very poetic manner. The song “I Am a Rock” is a perfect companion to “The Sound of Silence.”.

A winter's day

In a deep and dark December;

I am alone,

Gazing from my window to the streets below

On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I've built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

Don't talk of love,

Well, I've heard the word before.

It's sleeping in my memory.

I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

Simon has been a singer/song writer for nearly 50 years now, depending when on when you start the clock, and as popular, talented, and world renown yet I believe he is still underrated.

His music is very melodic and his voice is soft. Unlike Bob Dylan, Simon has not been in the news much for an infamous personal life. The only three major headlines I can think of for Simon include the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel, the divorce from Princess Lea (Carrie Fisher), and the non-controversy of his incorporating South African music into his CD; really he was exploring and pushing the limits of his creativity. So, no headlines, smooth voice, and literary lyrics combine to stifle the attention his work receives.

Additionally there is nothing racy about his lyrics. He mentions “stepping out to smoke a J” in “Late in the Evening,” and “Duncan” starts off about a couple that could win a prize for going at it all night long; “Old” references the first time he tried marijuana and his feeling of paranoia. These are genteel compared to say Dylan’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned” or many, many other songs.

The painter/photographer Chuck Close writes in the forward to Paul Simon’s book “Paul Simon Lyrics 1964-2008,” that no less a composer than Philip Glass has called Paul the greatest songwriter of our time.

And I am heading for a place of quiet

Where the sage and sweet grass grow

By a lake of scared water

From the mountain’s melted snow

“Quiet” by Paul Simon

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Los Angeles in the Mist

“If they'd lower the taxes and get rid of the smog and clean up the traffic mess, I really believe I'd settle here until the next earthquake”

Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx (1890[1] – 1977) comedian and film star

I realize now it’s me that cannot drive in the rain.

I need a frontal lobotomy, near-blinding cataracts, and paralysis of my right foot to prevent movement from one pedal to the next.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


It has been a while, so I just wanted to say hello. One of these days, I'll get around to posting here rather than on FB.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Precious Little Torah" --
Torah Dance Song Remix!

Made a little something to help my synagogue promote its Torah restoration project (restoring a 350 year-old Torah that survived the Holocaust!).

Get the mp3 here!

(And to find out how you can write a letter in our Holocaust Torah, visit my synagogue's website.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"Deer Hunter" for Kids

This guy is not my favorite internet personality, but he has a point about the inappropriate nature of this kids' toy.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2010 Reading List

“Real luxury is time and opportunity to read for pleasure”
Jane Brody, author

This is the time of year that I review all the books that I read through the previous year. This year I hit a personal high of 17 full books read.
Last year’s reading started with “Last Night Twisted River” by John Irving, which To paraphrase and take out of context, New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani, called this book a deeply felt and often moving story. In my notes about the books I read, I wrote this about Irving’s novel – It was a one family saga that at times was very moving. Pay attention to the first sentence – I do recall thinking about the story for a while I after finished it, which is always a good sign for me.
“The Humbling” by Philip Roth. Roth is an amazing writer. He is credibly smooth story telling. This is another story of an aging male, this one an actor, who realizes he lost his magic. I rather enjoyed it.
“The Meaning of Night, A Confession” by Michael Cox. I was in the mood for a mystery after Irving and Roth. From my notes, this story takes place in 19th Century England. Two murders take place in this heartbreaking story of how unfair the world can be.
“Point Omega” by Don DeLillo. This is a novella that provides no answers to the questions raised, but the language is wonderful and so are the descriptions.
“Ordinary Thunderstorms” by William Boyd. This novel captures how a life can turn around in a heartbeat from good to unbelievably bad.
“Miss O’Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and the Women They Loved” by Chris O’Dell with Katherine Ketcham. This was fun reading and provided a bit of insight into the lives of mostly The Beatles, who she worked for at Apple for a number of years. I found out that George Harrison told Ringo that he loved Ringo’s wife. Eric Clapton fell in love with George Harrison’s wife. Chris O’Dell fell in love with Leon Russell. Besides who fell for whom there was who played on whose albums.
“A Reliable Wife” by Robert Goolrick. This was one of my favorites for the year because it was the one I still continue to think about. From the dusk jacket: For Ralph Truitt, the wealthy businessman who had advertised for “a reliable wife,” this was also to be a new beginning. Years of solitude, denial, and remorse, would be erased, and Catherine Land, whoever she might be, would be the vessel of his desires, the keeper of his secrets, the means to recover what was lost.
“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’ Brien, the 20th anniversary edition. I must have been watching The Pacific on HBO and got into a combat mood. Once I got into it I realized that I read much of it previously in various excerpted short stories about Vietnam. It captures the turmoil teenagers had to deal with regarding the draft and combat. This is very good and a classic.
“The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman. Each chapter is about another person in the newsroom. It started out slow, but I got into by the end. I think the reviews were a bit over the top. From the NYTimes Notable Books: This intricate novel is built around the personal stories of staff members at an improbable English-language newspaper in Rome, and of the family who founded it in the 1950s.
“Matterhorn” by Karl Marlantes is a book about second lieutenant Waino Mellas and his comrades in Barvo Company. The year is 1969 and Mellas, a reservist with an Ivy League education has been assigned to lead a rifle platoon of forty Marines, most of whom are teenagers. If you ever wondered what war was like and how you might hold up, I highly recommend this book. The story is all fiction, but you know it was written with a lot of truth from experience. Marlantes is a graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. He served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two purple Hearts, and ten air medals. This was his first novel. In my notes, I wrote that it was terrible what soldiers had to endure, which included battle, the elements, and management (higher ranking officers).
“Mr. Peanut” by Adam Ross. A first novel. It’s very good and extremely well written. This is a book that needs to be read twice to see all the clues. Or, you can do what daughter does, which is read the ending first so you can see the tricks and clues as you go along.
“Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson. A delightful old fashion love story set in an English village. I rather enjoyed and savored this book.
“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster. He captures marriage and divorce and even older kids. A truly satisfying book.
“All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost” by Lan Samantha Chang. Another favorite that I thoroughly enjoyed; from the dusk jacket: At the renowned writing school in Bonnerville, every student is simultaneously terrified of and attracted to the charismatic and mysterious poet and professor Miranda Sturgis, whose high standards for art are both intimidating and inspiring. In my notes, I wrote that I thought this was a great companion piece to Nicholson Baker’s “The Anthropologist.”
“The Vaults” by Toby Ball. A first novel. Not sure how I found this book, it may have been by cruising through Amazon. In either case, the book was not what I expected, but not all that unsatisfying either. Probably the weakness of the books I read this year.
“The Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett. After thoroughly enjoying “World without End” and “Pillars of the Earth,” I had to get this first book of a planned trilogy. This starts off during World War One. Not as good as former two books, but a nice set up to the next installment.
“Sunset Park” by Paul Auster was not as an enjoyable read as "The Brooklyn Follies," but this was still interesting only because it was very easy reading. No doubt an English class would have a lot of material here for analyzing this book, but for me it was a pleasant book and capped off my 2010 reading list.
Bits and pieces
The following are the books that I read when I don't feel like reading a novel. So, the myriad books that I have picked up and put down and picked up again include:
“Secret Historian: The life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade” by Justin Spring. This book was nominated for a few awards and raved about by critics. It was a mesmerizing and shocking book. Right from the dusk jacket: Drawn from the secret, never-before seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the most extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. As an intimate fried of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Tokias, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on and documented his experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often funny) detail. Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research.
“Life” By Keith Richards. I am not sure there is anything more to be said about this book. It's interesting, but I like it only in pieces.
"Dino, Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams" by Nick Tosches. Dean Martin's life is every bit as interesting, maybe more so, than Keith Richards. Richards was certainly more creative.
"Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language" by Patricia T. Conner and Stewart Kellerman. When did we Americans lose our British accent? Answer: we didn't lose it. The British once spoke pretty much as we do. The English accent that we now associate with educated British speech is a relatively new phenomenon and didn't develop until after the American Revolution.
"The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. We are more insignificant that we ever imagined.